What’s Christian Love Go to Do With It?

Mosab Hassan Yousef is the son of one of the founders of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist faction that controls Gaza. For a decade, he was a spy for Mossad, Israel’s security agency, dubbed “the Green Prince.” At some point, he also converted to Christianity and began to love Israel. Haaretz is running a profile of him this weekend, and he has a book coming out this weekend. Of the three factoids I mentioned about him at the outset–Hamas scion, Mossad spy, Chrisitian convert–which do you think the press isn’t reporting? GetReligion has the answer.

Ask the Superintendent (2/23/10)

Yesterday, my boss (Jim Bradford) interviewed my dad (George O. Wood) about a variety of issues. The webcast was live, but you can watch the archived footage below.

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Questions for Shawn Wamsley

Shawn Wamsley has an interesting post about James K. A. Smith over at Theophiliacs. Smith has a lot of interesting and helpful things to say about the Pentecostal worldview, but I have two questions for Shawn: (1) How can someone be “the next leader and scholar extraordinaire of the Pentecostal movement” when he’s not affiliated within any Pentecostal fellowship or institution? Would it be possible for Al Mohler to become Anglicanism’s next leader and scholar extraordinaire?  (2) Given that the majority of Pentecostals (and Assemblies of God adherents as a subset of that majority) live well south of the Grand Rapids, Michigan border, shouldn’t we be looking for leadership from among the majority world?

Hebrew University archaeologist discovers Jerusalem city wall from tenth century B.C.E.

From a Hebrew University press release:

Jerusalem, February 22, 2010 – A section of an ancient city wall of Jerusalem from the tenth century B.C.E. – possibly built by King Solomon — has been revealed in archaeological excavations directed by Dr. Eilat Mazar and conducted under the auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The section of the city wall revealed, 70 meters long and six meters high, is located in the area known as the Ophel, between the City of David and the southern wall of the Temple Mount.

Uncovered in the city wall complex are: an inner gatehouse for access into the royal quarter of the city, a royal structure adjacent to the gatehouse, and a corner tower that overlooks a substantial section of the adjacent Kidron valley.

The excavations in the Ophel area were carried out over a three-month period with funding provided by Daniel Mintz and Meredith Berkman, a New York couple interested in Biblical Archeology. The funding supports both completion of the archaeological excavations and processing and analysis of the finds as well as conservation work and preparation of the site for viewing by the public within the Ophel Archaeological Park and the national park around the walls of Jerusalem.

The excavations were carried out in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Company for the Development of East Jerusalem. Archaeology students from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as well as volunteer students from the Herbert W. Armstrong College in Edmond, Oklahoma, and hired workers all participated in the excavation work.

“The city wall that has been uncovered testifies to a ruling presence. Its strength and form of construction indicate a high level of engineering”, Mazar said. The city wall is at the eastern end of the Ophel area in a high, strategic location atop the western slop of the Kidron valley.

“A comparison of this latest finding with city walls and gates from the period of the First Temple, as well as pottery found at the site, enable us to postulate with a great degree of assurance that the wall that has been revealed is that which was built by King Solomon in Jerusalem in the latter part of the tenth century B.C.E.,” said Mazar

“This is the first time that a structure from that time has been found that may correlate with written descriptions of Solomon’s building in Jerusalem,” she added. “The Bible tells us that Solomon built — with the assistance of the Phoenicians, who were outstanding builders — the Temple and his new palace and surrounded them with a city, most probably connected to the more ancient wall of the City of David.” Mazar specifically cites the third chapter of the First Books of Kings where it refers to “until he (Solomon) had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the Lord, and the wall of Jerusalem round about.”

The six-meter-high gatehouse of the uncovered city wall complex is built in a style typical of those from the period of the First Temple like Megiddo, Beersheva and Ashdod. It has symmetrical plan of four identical small rooms, two on each side of the main passageway. Also there was a large, adjacent tower, covering an area of 24 by 18 meters, which was intended to serve as a watchtower to protect entry to the city. The tower is located today under the nearby road and still needs to be excavated. Nineteenth century British surveyor Charles Warren, who conducted an underground survey in the area, first described the outline of the large tower in 1867 but without attributing it to the era of Solomon.

“Part of the city wall complex served as commercial space and part as security stations,” explained Mazar. Within the courtyard of the large tower there were widespread public activities, she said. It served as a public meeting ground, as a place for conducting commercial activities and cult activities, and as a location for economic and legal activities.

Pottery shards discovered within the fill of the lowest floor of the royal building near the gatehouse also testify to the dating of the complex to the 10th century B.C.E. Found on the floor were remnants of large storage jars, 1.15 meters in height, that survived destruction by fire and that were found in rooms that apparently served as storage areas on the ground floor of the building. On one of the jars there is a partial inscription in ancient Hebrew indicating it belonged to a high-level government official.

“The jars that were found are the largest ever found in Jerusalem,” said Mazar, adding that “the inscription that was found on one of them shows that it belonged to a government official, apparently the person responsible for overseeing the provision of baked goods to the royal court.”

In addition to the pottery shards, cult figurines were also found in the area, as were seal impressions on jar handles with the word “to the king,” testifying to their usage within the monarchy. Also found were seal impressions (bullae) with Hebrew names, also indicating the royal nature of the structure. Most of the tiny fragments uncovered came from intricate wet sifting done with the help of the salvaging Temple Mount Sifting Project, directed by Dr. Gabriel Barkai and Zachi Zweig, under the auspice of the Nature and Parks Authority and the Ir David Foundation.

Between the large tower at the city gate and the royal building the archaeologists uncovered a section of the corner tower that is eight meters in length and six meters high. The tower was built of carved stones of unusual beauty.

East of the royal building, another section of the city wall that extends for some 35 meters also was revealed. This section is five meters high, and is part of the wall that continues to the northeast and once enclosed the Ophel area.

Christianity & Western Thought, Volume 3: Journey to Postmodernity in the 20th Century

Alan G. Padgett and Steve Wilkens, Christianity and Western Thought, Vol. 3: Journey to Postmodernity in the Twentieth Century (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009). $35.00, 388 pages.

Tertullian, the North African church father, famously asked, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” Athens was a cipher for rational philosophy; Jerusalem for revealed theology. Tertullian’s answer to this question was apparently, “Nothing.” In the two millennia of its existence, however, the mainstream of the Christian church has answered, “Quite a lot.”

Over the past twenty years, InterVarsity Press has published a three-volume survey of the interactions between reason and faith, Christianity and Western Thought, with an evangelical readership uppermost in mind. (Like Tertullian, evangelicals have often been suspicious of the philosophical enterprise.) Colin Brown wrote the first volume, From the Ancient World to the Age of Enlightenment, which came out in 1990. Alan G. Padgett and Steve Wilkens wrote the second volume, Faith and Reason in the 19th Century, ten years later. Now they have brought the series to a conclusion with a third volume, Journey to Postmodernity in the 20th Century (2009).

Two things differentiate this multi-volume history of philosophy from the comparable series by Frederick C. Copleston and Anthony Kenny: First, the intended readership is evangelical scholars and students. Second, the specific focus is how philosophy has informed or been critiqued by theology. Some readers in the history of philosophy might find this narrowing of readership and focus off-putting, but I think it adds to the value of the series. If you want an encyclopedic history of philosophy, read Copleston. But if you’re interested in that history with a specific set of faith-questions in mind, read Christianity and Western Thought.

Volume 3 examines the Journey to Postmodernity in the 20th Century. The century began with optimism in the ability of reason, specifically scientific forms of reasoning, to clarify and even solve humanity’s enduring problems. But it ended with the dissolution of that scientistic metanarrative after two world wars, the end of colonialism, and the growth of the civil rights movement—all of which called into question the West’s characteristic self-regard.

Like other historians of philosophy, Padgett and Wilkens classify the two main streams of twentieth century philosophy as analytic and continental. But they also point out a deep meeting of the waters between these two streams in terms of the questions they ask, even if the modes of analysis and answers or these two streams are strikingly different or even contradictory. Those questions center on four topics:

  • Philosophy and science
  • Ontology, or the nature of being—specifically, human being
  • Language and meaning
  • Postmodernism


As befits historians of philosophy, the authors present each philosopher’s argument from a sympathetically critical perspective, seeking first to understand each one on his (rarely her) own terms. But the history of philosophy is incomplete without a record of rejoinder and surrejoinder, and the authors attempt to capture the ongoing debate as well.

As befits a history of philosophy with an interest in its interaction with theology, the authors also provide, where appropriate, a narrative of how Christian philosophers and theologians have appropriated and critiqued the philosophical tendencies of their day. Chapter 5, “Existence and the Word of God,” helpfully surveys the relationship of neo-orthodox theologians to various forms of existentialism. Chapter 8, “Faith in Philosophy,” looks at the rise of a neo-Thomism among Catholic thinkers, as well as the surprising rise of what might be turned “analytical theology,” because of the use of analytical tools of language analysis and logic by Christian philosophers addressing specifically Christian theological themes.

Unlike some Christian apologists, who denounce postmodernism tout court, Padgett and Wilkens take a cautiously appreciative stance. Postmodernism is a bewildering variety of often mutually incompatible themes and strategies, so Christians ought to be very careful in their assessments of it.

On the whole, I enjoyed and recommend Journey to Postmodernity in the 20th Century, not to mention the preceding two volumes of the Christianity and Western Thought series. My only major disappointment was the near total absence of discussion of political philosophy and the dearth of discussion of ethics. Alasdair MacIntyre makes a brief (and welcome appearance), but Leo Strauss and John Rawls are completely absent. Obviously, authors must pick and choose what they are going to discuss, but politics and ethics (including bioethics) are often the only “philosophical” topics of interest to lay readers. And they have an immediate bearing on how we live our lives, in a way that technical discussions of science, ontology, and language don’t.

But again, I enjoyed this book and the entire series and recommend them for readers interested in a better answer to Tertullian’s question than he himself provided.


P.S. If you thought this review was helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazo.com web page.

P.P.S. It’s hard to believe, but this is my 750th blog post. Holy Cow!

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